Three years ago we started prototyping a new kind of incubation as a service. Not a building filled to the brim with young guys and their high tech, high growth app-building ventures, but instead, a kind of service that comes to you—and gets plugged into centers, workspaces, labs, makerspaces and bars. One of our first programs was in a bar called Crate in Hackney Wick, East London.
The service is called Upstarter, and we help creative producers, designers, theater makers, social innovators, and other folks with new ideas to develop great entrepreneurial muscles rapidly, while building an audience base and effectively prototyping their business. Typically these sort of people and ideas are not being supported by existing incubators who tend to focus more on scalable technology applications and services. In just six evenings, we got people off the starting blocks and in front of potential customers.
We’ve worked in many different spaces and places, and that’s what we love to bring— ‘incubation for the rest of us’—delivered in places where we are. And it’s a non-profit organization, not a typical Silicon Valley style VC. This all started out at the UK Design Council with emerging technology startups. We then kicked the idea around at Carnegie Mellon University’s Schools of Design & Architecture with the aim being to bring a little entrepreneurial opportunity to their students.
Now Upstarter runs a range of short and longer-term programs. We initiate events and do lots and lots of face-to-face mentoring. Our mentoring continues with some amazing startups such as Technikio, Museum in a Box, Circumstance, Mayfly…. and we have been lucky to work at Fab Lab Barcelona, Machines Room in London, Pervasive Media Studio in Bristol and many other partners.
We are starting to extend our work with others, and a trip to NYC in February gave Upstarter the chance to reconnect with like-minded folk in the US, including Made In the Lower East Side (MiLES), Brooklyn Fashion and Design Accelerator and Civic Hall. We hope to return soon and bring some of our design-led, entrepreneurial support to micro business owners that are trying out new things, often combining their creative talents with solid intentions around positive social impact.
We know that our future economy is not only going to come from Silicon Valley but needs to be home grown around the world. Upstarter isn’t doing this any of this alone. Instead we’re just one part of a network of DIY enthusiasts, makers, designers and social innovators—a global community, a movement even, that could help transform economies. We’re excited to help support people to make that happen.